Delta Airlines recently made the news with its new travel documentation requirements for customers traveling with service and support animals. According to a statement released by Delta, “this comes as a result of a lack of regulation that has led to serious safety risks involving untrained animals in flight. The new requirements support Delta’s top priority of ensuring safety for its customers, employees and trained service and support animals, while supporting the rights of customers with legitimate needs to travel with trained animals.”
Delta reports that it carries approximately 700 Service and support animals daily, or nearly 250,000 a year. Reported animal incidents have increased 84% in the last year. If these figures from a single airline are any indication, new rules are desperately needed. As vocal proponents of MA House Bill 2277, which makes Service Dog fraud a civil offense, NEADS supports Delta’s fledgling efforts to curb Service Dog fraud. We believe that this new policy will benefit all those affected by the fake Service Dog issue while supporting those customers with a legitimate need for Service Dogs.
Pet owners may claim that there’s no harm in passing off a pet off as a Service Dog, but in reality, the proliferation of fake Service Dogs poses many challenges. An improperly trained or untrained pet can endanger and interfere with a true working Service Dog, and can give legitimate Service Dogs a bad name. These untrained animals can endanger, annoy, or inconvenience fellow passengers as well. And the pets themselves can be affected, because when an improperly trained or untrained pet is placed in a situation it isn’t prepared for, it can become nervous, afraid, and unpredictable.
NEADS believes that one of the best ways to address the issue of Service Dog fraud is through education. In addition to educating pet owners and passengers about the issue of Service Dog fraud, we hope that Delta and other airlines will provide their employees, especially those who interact directly with Service Dog teams, with adequate education which would include the rights and responsibilities of both parties.